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The Rant y l h t Mon March 2020
SANFORD, NORTH CAROLINA
PASSENGER RAIL'S y r ve POSSIBLE RETURN
2 | March 2020
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y The Rant l h t on M March 2020 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 2 | Issue 3
Editorial Gordon Anderson | firstname.lastname@example.org Billy Liggett | email@example.com Jonathan Owens | firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising Brandon Allred | email@example.com 919.605.1479 Contributors Bob Hall, May Hemmer, Charles Petty, Jennifer St. Clair Editorial Board Grace Hopper, Shirley Jackson, Stephanie Kwolek, Josephine Cochran, Mary Anderson, Marie Van Britton Brown, Patsy Sherman, Caresse Crosby and Hedy Lamarr
Find Us Online: www.rantnc.com Facebook: facebook.com/therant905 Twitter: twitter.com/therant905 Spotify: Check out our playlist for cool lovemaking
ABOUT THE COVER We're excited to report about the (very) possible return of passenger rail to Sanford, North Carolina. This month's cover story not only details the "why" and the "how" this could happen, but also dives into Sanford's rich railroad history. The city was founded, like many others in North Carolina, as a rail stop, and Sanford residents relied heavily on passenger rail to get to even closer cities like Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington. This cover was designed using resources from Freepik.com
The Rant Monthly is located in beautiful Sanford, North Carolina. Please address all correspondence to LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard #126, Sanford, NC, 27332. Editorial email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Advertising: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Rant Monthly is published monthly (obvs). The Rant Monthly is wholly owned and operated by LPH Media LLC, a North Carolina corporation. Submissions of all kinds are welcome. This publication is free â€” one per reader, please. Removal of this newspaper from any distribution point for purposes other than reading it constitutes theft, and violators are subject to public flogging. Printed by SunBelt Press in Dunn, North Carolina. Copyright 2020, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.
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4 | March 2020
@therant905 A FAMOUS MAN AND HIS PROSTATE
PAGE FOUR QUOTABLE
“It seems like we’ve been doing this kind of event every two or three months. Let’s keep it going.” — Sanford Area Growth Alliance Chairman Kirk Bradley on the news that San Francisco-based Audentes Therapeutics will come to Sanford with 209 new jobs and a tax base investment of $109 million (Story, Page 8)
“If someone took it the wrong way, I’m sorry. But I was very upset that I’d just watched pornography. They had a pole on the stage, for God’s sake.” — Apology made by Randy Todd, a Republican candidate for one of three seats on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, who took to Facebook during the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, to complain about the “Mexican burlesque” halftime show, writing that it should be done “in English next time” or else held in Mexico
Television and film legend Ed Asner will bring his comedic talents to Sanford's Temple Theatre on April 28, when he stars in the one-man show "A Man and His Prostate." Asner calls the show "part comedy, part public service announcement," as it tries to raise awareness about prostate cancer, which claimed the lives of nearly 29,000 men in the U.S. in 2015. For tickets ($35), visit templeshows.com.
NORTH CAROLINA PRIMARY | FIVETHIRTYEIGHT
LPH Media and The Rant will celebrate one full year of The Rant Monthly publications with an open-to-the-public party at Local Joe's in downtown Sanford on Saturday, April 4.
FUN WITH FACTS Raven Rock State Park sits along the fall zone, an area where the hard, resistant rocks of the foothills give way to the softer rocks and sediments of the coastal plain. The underlying rocks of the area were formed more than 400 million years ago by intense heat and pressure.
FIRST RANT-IVERSARY PARTY SET FOR APRIL 4
FiveThirtyEight polling numbers for the March 3 North Carolina Democratic presidential primary as of Feb. 27.
Complete details will be made public at rantnc.com in early March. The plan is for a night of drinks and (quite possibly) karaoke to recognize this not-quite historic accomplishment. "Honestly, we were all going to go out that night anyway," said Rant co-founder and puppeteer Billy Liggett. "When we realized it coinicided with that, we thought, 'Hey, let's make it a thing.' And then Gordon was like, 'You always want to make everythign a thing, Billy,' and I was like, 'Just leave me alone, man. You're a bully.' And then we forced Gordon to attend an anger management class, and he got a certificate. We can't wait to see everybody there." Refresh rantnc.com every five minutes for the next two weeks for more details.
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The Rant Monthly | 7
Community panel talks human trafficking fight By Charles Petty Human trafficking is $150 billion per year worldwide industry. The average age for a trafficked person is 14. Seventy-one percent of those trafficked are women and girls. Sobering stats that reflect a horrific, if often unseen reality. A panel of experts ranging from law enforcement to a worker and a former pediatric doctor and child abuse prevention advocate gathered at Calvary Baptist church in February to speak about the risks posed locally by this massive problem, and what the community can do in response. “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” Dr. Joseph Zanga told the assembled group, which included law enforcement, social workers and more. “I may not know you, but I kind of do because we all have concerns, and one your main concerns is your children.”
“We must make sure modern-day slavery will not endure.” — event co-sponsor Margaret Murchison
Zanga got involved originally in child abuse preventive measures as a practicing pediatrician in Columbus, Ga. Working with the Rotary International chapter there, he and other fellow Rotarians began work to ensure that children everywhere could find safe spaces and outlets away from abusive homes. According to Zanga, human trafficking can happen almost in plain sight. Part of his presentation for the 40 or so community members gathered in the church’s fellowship hall focused on warning signs and indicators of human trafficking. A person who is being trafficked, he said, is oftentimes disconnected
from friends and loved ones and appears to have sudden changes in behavior, or things like bruises and wounds that aren’t easily explained. Zanga recalled an incident which he said highlighted just how awful and destructive human trafficking can be. A young woman in her very early teens was brought to visit him by her mother, who asked if the girl could be placed on birth control. When Zanga, shocked by the girl’s young age, asked why, he eventually learned the mother was selling older men access to her daughter. It wasn’t the only time he dealt with such shocking news. According to Zanga, these things happen locally, and he hopes to combat them through a series of measures including hotlines, educational flyers and more. Officer Scott Haire of the Sanford Police Department said law enforcement is trying to learn more about the human trafficking epidemic, its ramifications locally and how
best the agencies can best work with Social Services and other organizations to address any cases that do arise. Margaret Murchison helped sponsor the event through First Calvary and said that because trafficking is a modern-day form of Sanford, Black History month was a good time to bring the issue into focus. “February is Black History Month, and within the conversation of slavery and how we can educate the public about it further, there is a kinship between human trafficking and the pre-Emancipation Proclamation slavery,” Murchison said. “With human trafficking, people are being held against their wills just as it was during the horrible period of slavery in America. We must make sure modern day slavery will not endure.” o For more information on human trafficking, or to download some prinatable educational materials, visit projectnorest.org/get-involved/ printable-downloads/
8 | March 2020
Greenwood principal to take over top spot at W.B. Wicker Aimee Petrarca, currently the principal at Greenwood Elementary School, will be the new principal at W.B. Wicker Elementary School, the school district announced on Feb. 26. She will succeed Wendy Carlyle, the school's principal when it opened its doors in August. The district also announced Rob Dietrich will step down as director of accountability, testing and records and director of technology for a position with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Petrarca brings an impressive resume with her, having been named the district’s principal of the year in 2017, and overseeing multiple wins of the Lee County Education Foundation’s Head of Class Award. She has been principal at Greenwood since June 2014, and began her teaching career at B.T. Bullock in 1998. A search for Petrarca’s replacement at Greenwood will begin immediately, according to the release. “As a former elementary teacher, Aimee understands the rewards and challenges teachers face in their classroom every day and works hard to provide whatever support is needed,” Superintendent Dr. Andy Bryan said. “She also has a unique ability to continue to build strong partnerships with the community to support the school.” Bryan also said the moves were “strategic” and that they matched the needs of the district with the strengths of the administrators.
200 new jobs on the way City, county reveal their 'Project Jupiter' deal as new San Francisco-based Audentes Therapeutics By Gordon Anderson The identity of the company being wooed to a spec building in Lee County’s Central Carolina Enterprise Park through an economic development deal dubbed Project Jupiter was revealed on Feb. 18 — San Francisco-based Audentes Therapeutics has agreed to bring 200-plus jobs and a tax base investment of $109 million to Lee County. The deal’s completion was announced at a ceremony at the spec building, which the company will purchase and upfit for use. In return, the Sanford and Lee County governments will rebate about $5 million in property taxes over seven years as long as Audentes holds to its end of the deal. “North Carolina is a center for the life sciences. Companies across the glob are looking at North Carolina, and we’re rivaling Cambridge and San Francisco and other places,"
Gov. Roy Cooper said at the ceremony. "This company wanted a skilled workforce. They knew we had amazing research institutions and the best community college system to provide the talent.”
sciences are known to “cluster.”
Audentes Therapeutics Senior Vice President Don Wuchterl said the company had exceeded its capacity at its San Francisco location, so their journey for another location began about a year ago.
Audentes’ decision means nearly 1,000 new jobs and almost $800 million in new tax base investment since last summer. Each of these deals was negotiated by state officials and the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, and required approval from city and county governments.
“We followed several criteria," he said. “One of them was access to a skilled and talented workforce. We were looking for a community with an established life science presence, and this area is incredible for that. We also didn’t want to take employees from existing businesses — we wanted to build our own base over time.” Audentes specializes in gene therapy, much like Pfizer, a competing company which will now be its neighbor. Pfizer announced in August 2019 that it was expanding its existing Sanford location to accommodate a gene therapy operation with 300 new employees and half a billion dollars in tax base investment. The Rant wrote in November about how Pfizer’s expansion could potentially make Sanford the world’s gene therapy capital — particularly since industries like life
An additional 460 new jobs and $170 million in tax base investment was announced in September by Indian auto parts manufacturer Bharat Forge.
Both votes split along party lines, with Democrats supporting the agreements and Republicans opposing them. “Lee County’s economic successes have been rooted in our strong partnerships,” said Commissioner Chairwoman Amy Dalrymple. “We’re constantly working together behind the scenes — sometimes it’s the little things, sometimes it’s the big things like today. But we’re constantly working. We are so excited that Audentes recognizes the potential benefits of locating here. But this isn’t just a company that’s coming here to provide jobs and tax base. They’re a company with a mission to help people across the globe.”
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10 | March 2020
@therant905 RANDOM THOUGHT
We understand pet rescue organizations want to do their due diligence when it comes to finding good homes for their animals, but missing a heart worm treatment on your 12-year-old dog doesn't mean you're a bad owner and shouldn't disqualify you from ever owning a pet again. — Billy Liggett
This is game changing
lthough the work of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance has been ongoing for a number of years, the results of that labor have only truly become evident in the past handful of months.
And by any standard, the numbers are beyond impressive: Since last summer, two new companies (Bharat Forge and Audentes Therapeutics) have announced plans to set up shop in Lee County, make game-changing investments in the local tax base, and provide hundreds of jobs that locals will be more than capable of filling. A third company (Pfizer) announced a large scale expansion of its gene therapy operation, making those already exciting numbers just plain garish. Nearly 1,000 new jobs. Nearly $800 million in new tax base investment. Those numbers aren’t just huge, they’re game changing. These announcements don’t just mean new jobs, they mean more big changes for a community that’s already on the rise. And yes, a portion of the new property tax revenue will go back to some of these companies over the next seven years as part of the incentive agreements that played a part in luring them here, but if someone gives you ten bucks on the condition that you give two of it back, that’s eight bucks you didn’t have before. And Pfizer’s expansion came with no additional incentive beyond one granted in 2017 to lure the gene therapy operation here in the first place. A gain by any measure. There have been a couple of public bumps in this road. One is misinformation. When The Sanford Herald published some wildly erroneous numbers about the terms of the Audentes deal in February (the county is not giving the company $109 million), we didn’t take too much joy in publicly correcting the record, but the possibility of that error poisoning the well of public opinion on something so inarguably good seemed too likely to ignore. And it wasn’t just a case of publishing the correct information — identifying the mistake underlined the correct numbers. To do otherwise would only have muddied the waters and left the public wondering which numbers were right. And while The Herald’s mistake was an honest one (we’ve all been there), there are also too many folks around willing to muddy the waters because they oppose incentive deals. That brings us to our second bump in the road, which is the local politicians who have voted — again and again — against the deals that are bearing so much fruit economically. Fortunately, their numbers are too small at the moment to stop forward progress, but that could all change in the next election. You’ll definitely see more information about that here in the coming months, but the broader point is that progress isn’t just about numbers like jobs and tax base. It’s downtown revitalization. It’s restaurants and shops and breweries opening up and succeeding. It’s things like the possibility of a brand new sports complex or a commuter train stopping in Sanford. It’s all connected. Remember that as you follow the local news.
In response to that negative 'burlesque' statement By May Hemmer Guest Columnist
am a wife, a mother, a costumer and … a burlesque dancer.
That’s right. I am a burlesque dancer. The shock! The scandal! But I am proud of what I am. I am also what I call a wonderful concoction of Puerto Rican, African American and Native American. I am proud of my profession of being a performer, proud of being a stay-at-home mom and proud of my heritage. It’s funny that others have a problem with it or think I should not be proud of what I do or what I am. Since moving to Sanford two years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana, I have experienced a whirlwind of emotions, to say the least. Being told that my husband got his dream job was so exciting, but when I realized that the place that I was moving to wasn’t a town I had heard of … it was scary. My mother and father had been stationed at Camp Lejeune for a long time, and all I really knew about North Carolina was the larger cities. You can imagine the adjustment when I moved from a city where there was always something happening — meet-ups, festivals, concerts. However, I was hopeful. And two years later, I’m still hopeful. But I won’t lie, I don’t put myself forward as I did when I first arrived. As a woman of color, I’ve seen a mix of greetings in this town. On one hand, I have met a few wonderful people whom I consider friends. On the other hand, I have had people ask me if I am the nanny to my children, and my children have been called derogatory names in regards to their complexion. I have also been treated by some as someone who should be ashamed of my profession. All their attitudes tell me is these people lack knowledge of what burlesque is and have a closed mindset in regards to other ethnicities. That brings me to the comment made re-
cently by a local man running for office (article on Page 34). I was angry and shocked when I saw the comment and even shared the article from The Rant on my social media. My first issue with this comment was that he was lumping all Hispanics and Latinos in a broad category. It is just one of the many reasons that when I tell people where I live, they are shocked and genuinely concerned about how I am doing. That is the perception that this town has outside of its community, and I feel that it needs to change. There’s a lot of movement that has been made since I’ve moved here, but more needs to happen — especially if you want more diverse people to live here, work here and spend their money here. Learn about your multicultural neighbors to understand them. Second, the halftime show was not burlesque. I’m curious if this person actually knows what burlesque is. The performances on that stage were a mixture of Latin dancing, pole art and other various forms of dances from other parts of the work. Burlesque is the art of the strip tease that dates back further that most even know or care to learn about. It is a very expressive and empowering art form that is for all genders. I use it to reclaim my feelings about my body and my feelings as a woman and to express either my emotions or to comment on the current state of affairs in our country. This has been going on for decades and will continue to grow; I can only hope. It is a main reason that I decide to go for it and teach classes in the community to not only educate people on what my performance style is, but to help others empower themselves. I’ll end with this: I hope that this town grows more socially conscious, so that I will feel comfortable to raise my family here. I’ve heard people say that people don’t spend time here in town, but I can tell you from my personal experience as a woman of color that a lot of it has to do with a lot of stigmas that still exist here. Don’t get me wrong — it is not the entire community, but just like with anything, a few bad experiences can cause people to have their guard up. Especially in the political climate we are in today.
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rantnc.com READER RESPONSE New high-density subdivision on Franklin Drive would present problems, 'degrade quality of life' for neighbors At the urging of my neighbors and other community members, I wish to bring attention to the proposed "South Franklin Subdivision" early in its consideration. It is our understanding that this proposed development at 125 S. Franklin Drive (just off Wicker Street) will consist of 106 single-family homes on lots as small as 4,300 square feet. This would put as many as 10 homes on one acre of developed property. This density is a huge deviation from the surrounding area where many homes sit on multiple-acre parcels and may be the highest density anywhere in Lee County for single-family homes. It is our belief that local citizens recognize that having people live in such close proximity to one another presents many problems and degrades quality of life for all concerned. This development, as proposed, would greatly alter the stability and character of our neighborhood. This property is currently zoned R-20. For the approval of this subdivision, special re-zoning consideration would have to be approved. We appeal to all concerned that density of this development be limited to the current R-20 standards. We recognize and respect property owner's rights to use and develop their land in keeping with surrounding areas. We understand that change is inevitable, and we plan to be good neighbors to those that come to live in our immediate community. We simply ask that special considerations and spot zoning be avoided so that our neighborhood and community can avoid the detrimental effects of high-density development. Approval of this plan, in its current design, would in no way reflect the UDO standards we previously adopted and embraced for this area.
David P. Jones Sanford
The February 2020 edition of The Rant Monthly featured a cover story on Galvin’s Ridge subdivision, a 1,000-home project coming to the Deep River area in the coming years. While many are excited to see more housing coming to the area (to match recent big job announcements), others — namely those living in Deep River — are not happy with the idea of a high-density subdivision in their rural area.
protect it. They also fail to mention that the sign [for Central Carolina Enterprise Park] was bought and paid for by county taxpayers, and it sits on private land. Or that county taxpayers are still paying for the sign to be lit when it is no longer an industrial area. It’s a complete waste of our tax money, and I hope each and every voter in Lee County will remember this when it comes election time. Russell Marks
I’m wondering how the developers propose to handle the septic output of the community. Are they planning to build septic drain fields for 1,000 houses next to a river? Are they building their own community septic system? Or is the city going to extend service out there to handle the waste? I’ve known of planned developments such as this that contracted with private wastewater treatment companies, and it turned into complete financial disasters with residents getting charged hundreds of dollars a month per household for water treatment. Is there a solid plan for this here? Vanya Wright The Rant never discussed that this development is five miles outside of the normal city limits. Or that city police and fire will have to
It was only a matter of time. Sanford is conveniently located to Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro and Fayetteville. Kelley Carbery Dubois
YOUR RANT If we’re anything, we’re pretty good listeners. Each month, we’ll reserve this space in our little publication for your opinions on anything and everything (tell us what you think of our brewery story this month!). All we ask is that you keep it clean, don’t get personal with your fellow citizens and keep it short. Email us (addresses on Page 3) or send a message to our Facebook page.
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RAIL'S RETURN It's been decades since the city at the heart of North Carolina — one named for a train engineer — has had passenger rail service available to the public. The state and the city are looking to change that in the coming years. By Gordon Anderson
lmost 150 years after its founding, trains still come through Sanford every day. It makes sense. Sanford is named, after all, for C.O. Sanford, the first civil engineer who worked on the train tracks that very literally led to the city's incorporation in 1874.
The trains that pass through every day mostly do just that — they pass through. While they pick up and drop off some of the freight they’re carrying, but passengers can’t embark or debark. In any case, not only do those rail lines still exist, they're still active. So it makes a certain amount of sense that those rail lines — so essential to Sanford's past — have a good chance of paving the way into Sanford's future, particularly with regard to transportation. It's a ways off. Assuredly, there’s a lot of red tape to to cut through, and a lot of things that need to go right. But the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the city of Sanford are preparing for the possibility that passenger trains could in the foreseeable future not only stop in Sanford, but also service the entirety of the state's portion of what's known as the “S Line” — a rail line that runs from Virginia to South Carolina, from Henderson in the north, through Wake Forest and Raleigh and then Sanford, and then from Southern Pines and through Hamlet to the state's southern border.
A passenger train passes through Sanford during the 1940s in this image courtesy of the Railroad House Museum at Depot Park.
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The line's current use is largely for freight, but many leaders see prioritizing it for commuters as the way of the future. The state's preparations for this possibility comes on the heels of a $3.7 billion agreement between Virginia and CSX to purchase 350 miles of that state's portion of rail corridor through the state. This included Virginia’s portion of the S Line, and the state has commited public funds to developing new passenger rail opportunities there. “Right now, the major freight carriers and railroads are evaluating their assets to see which ones they want to hold onto as part of their core system, and some that possibly could be spun off to provide other opportunities,” explained Jason Orthner, the director of NCDOT’s Rail Division. “And the S Line is one of those lines that the state has been proactively looking at for some time both north of the Triangle region and south of the Triangle region.” According to Lisa Mathis, a Sanford resident who serves on the N.C. Board of Transportation, a very tentative proposal is being floated to put a temporary platform at Depot Park as part of a pilot program that would provide commuter rail service between Sanford and Raleigh while testing the S Line's feasibility statewide. The hope, she said, is that that pilot program would be
“Let's face it — in 20 years, getting to downtown Raleigh by car may be next to impossible.” — Sanford Mayor Chet Mann funded by a federal grant. “We think it'll take between $3 and $6 million really to get a pilot program off the ground,” Mathis said, noting that's not a “local money” number. “But the way we work through that doesn't mean that Sanford has to come up with $6 million. We have a lot of big stakeholders, that are not necessarily local stakeholders, that would benefit from that pilot program. But it's just too early to know exactly what this looks like.” Mathis' role as a transportation board member, though, has not been to be a part of any DOT discussions about how and even whether to re-prioritize the S Line
for use by commuters. Instead, she's been meeting with the stakeholders she mentioned, which range from large industries who could envision using the line for freight or to bring workers in and out to community nonprofits like the Temple Theatre, which stands less than a football field away from the potential train platform. “You get all the creative stuff, like, 'oh, we could do some theatrical performance, or do o a Temple train ride — I mean, there's just so many neat things that can happen when you get more minds on the project,” she said. “And for example, well I've got a meeting up at the airport. We're going to talk to the Airport Authority about what positives
The Railroad House Museum in downtown Sanford serves as a museum to Sanford's rich rail history. Photo by Billy Liggett
and negatives they could see about the S Line coming through. We're talking about how it can affect the (Moncure) Megasite and how it can attract companies there. We could attract millennials who would much rather ride a train, maybe they live in Raleigh and they want to get a train down to work and then get a train back. That's what we're doing, trying to get people to add to the conversation.” While Sanford does have a rich history with rail, the mode of transportation might not exactly jump out at the average person as the next step in transit's future. But its potential use in expanding the options locals might use to get around has implications for the future as the population grows and the state struggles to keep up with infrastructure that's related to travel. And think of it this
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rantnc.com way: people in Sanford don't ride trains because, well, Sanford doesn't have trains. “Multi-modal means of transportation is something we've got to look at,” said Sanford Mayor Chet Mann, who along with Wake Forest Mayor Viv Jones is co-chairing a committee aimed at educating the other cities that are on the line about the project. “And it's not even about today, it's over the next 20 years. Let's face it — in 20 years, getting into downtown Raleigh by car may be next to impossible. And it's so much easier and cheaper to add a rail line than to build new highways.” Orthner echoed that, and said Sanford is strategically located for a test run of sorts. “It's part of a larger conversation that's happening regionally and across the state about how to move people around on a system other than just congested highways,” he explained. “And Sanford is in a good place because obviously it's one of those growing communities inside the greater Triangle area. The idea is that the rail system can support connecting rural and urban areas in a way that allows them to continue to have mobility.”
According to Lisa Mathis, a Sanford resident who serves on the N.C. Board of Transportation, a very tentative proposal is being floated to put a temporary platform at Depot Park as part of a pilot program that would provide commuter rail service between Sanford and Raleigh (above) to test the S Line's feasibility statewide. Photo courtesy of N.C. DOT
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According to Mathis, the idea has been well received — she said she's only heard from one person who opposes it — in large because trains are not just a large part of Sanford's past, but the entire country's. That legacy, she said, can help put folks' minds at ease when they're learning about transportation challenges the state could face in the future.
means his division works on a project that could benefit an entire multi-city corridor through the state. For Mann and Mathis, that means a mechanism by which to continue redevelopment efforts that have recently begun in east Sanford. Mathis pointed to an east Sanford redevelopment study done on behalf of city government which had some unexpected results.
“We're not talking in this instance about drones, or automated cars, or things that can scare people at some level. With trains, we're looking at our past. We were told that 50 percent of the growth in the United States in the next 10 years is going to occur in four states, Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina,” she said. “We know we need to do things differently. And this opportunity of this rail line coming up for sale, it feels like a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to affect congestion up and down this area and help people make decisions about their mobility.”
“What they found was that the perception of East Sanford wasn't actually what was happening there. That even though there might be some areas that are blighted, that doesn't reflect the community as a whole at all. And the economic data that they got made them very encouraged that this would actually be a very good place to help boost along the economic growth there, because the people that are there want to stay there,” she said. “So the economic data is showing that they wouldn't be forced out, if that makes any sense. They'd be able to stay there. There are people that are buying houses there that are very capable of spending a lot more money, and would have, but they couldn't find anything like that.”
One benefit many leaders see in the project is the opportunity it will provide for economic development both in Sanford and statewide. For Orthner, that
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18 | March 2020
That information could also serve to allay any concerns about gentrification that may arise when discussing a move that could have such far-reaching economic implications. Mann noted the Brightline Rail that's been put into service in the Miami area as an example. “There has been $7 billion in economic development activity connected to that line,” he said. “It's been a major hub of growth. Now, we're not Miami, and we won't have billions of dollars, but the S Line could mean tens of millions of dollars in economic growth for the region. You see when these things happen, that retail, parks, new residential, even things like bus stops spring up around it. We've really got an opportunity here to revitalize a part of east Sanford.” For his part, Orthner pointed to Denton, Texas — a town about 40 miles outside of Dallas — as another example of a smaller city which has benefited economically from a rail line connection to a bigger one. But an even bigger impetus is a method by which to help bridge a divide across the state that in addition to being
Mathis concurred, noting that because the way we travel is connected to just about every other part of our lives, the ramifications are bigger than just economic development, or having a train stop in town, or any other single issue.
"We were told that 50 percent of the growth in the United States in the next 10 years is going to occur in four states, Georgia, Texas, Florida and North Carolina. We know we need to do things differently. And this opportunity of this rail line coming up for sale, it feels like a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to affect congestion up and down this area and help people make decisions about their mobility.” — Lisa Mathis
economic is social, cultural and sometimes even political. “Denton has a commuter service that’s helped their smaller city grow really well,” he said. “But I think generally, the idea
with these types of systems is to connect more rural communities with urban communities to help them flourish and grow while not having to deal with traffic patterns, while also creating economic development around station sites.”
“Think about people with mobility issues that could go up and down on the train and then not have to worry about a car. What if somebody lives in Raleigh but can't afford to live there? Or works in Raleigh, right?” Mathis added. “But they can totally afford to live down here or a little ways out of town. It would absolutely help with affordable housing as well. I think it's a jobs issue, I think it's an economic development idea. I mean, it helps with a lot of things.” But make no mistake — the economic benefits are real. In Denton's case, the Texas county's A-train commuter rail has led to benefits such as $11.8 million in new property and sales tax revenue for cities who are members of the Denton County Transit Authority, an influx of upwardly mobile professionals, significantly reduced transportation costs, and a reduction in
Honda Suzuki of Sanford 3128 S. Horner BLVD. Sanford
The Rant Monthly | 19
rantnc.com emissions harmful to the environment. “DCTA is keeping Denton County open for business. Since opening in 2011, our A-train commuter rail service has attracted new professionals and businesses, spurred new market investment, and expanded the countywide tax base while providing an alternative form of transportation to address air quality and cost-of-living,” reads a report on that county's transit website. “In addition to other countywide strengths, including a high quality of life, skilled workforce and a welcoming environment to new land development, the A-train has helped to build the local economy.” And while many commuters may initially jump at the chance to use the train between Raleigh and Sanford for work purposes (many companies, for example, provide shuttle service for employees, something that could be eliminated or drastically curtailed by the presence of a train station in Sanford, potentially in exchange for some private buy-in), there's an even broader opportunity for those traveling further, whether that travel is for business or pleasure. “What it does is it opens up the possibil-
ity for us to get to a train literally anywhere north of Richmond. Once you get to Richmond, it just all opens up. And we could take a train, then, from Sanford to D.C. We could take a train from Sanford to New York City,” Mathis said. “The success of what can happen here can affect the entire East Coast. It's bigger than just us. This is a big deal, is what this is.” One thing Mathis, Orthner and others are looking for is feedback. Although meetings with stakeholders like area employers, community groups, and other cities and transportation entities is vital, she said the broadest conversation possible will help deliver the best product possible. Those with input can contact the N.C. DOT Rail Division at (919) 707-4700. “I think what folks are saying is that it's an opportunity for these communities where the town grew up around the railroad. There are visions of kind of recreating not just their downtown, but possibly even creating opportunities outside of the town for manufacturing and such to go along with an improved freight rail component of the line. They view it as a real economic development opportunity,”
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20 | March 2020
Sanford's passenger rail history goes deep Harry P. Edwards began building passenger railway equipment in Sanford in 1917 and formed the Edwards Railway Motor Car Company in 1921. Edwards turned out more than 130 cars over a two-decade span and made a name for itself among major South and Central American railways, as well as on U.S. Class 1 and short line railroads. His first rail cars carried passengers between downtown Sanford and the Jonesboro section at the start of the 20th century. By 1907, the line had extended to Broadway. Between 1917 and 1948 folks could ride in a passenger car like this between Sanford and Lillington for 50 cents. Edwards saw an opportunity to expand into train manufacturing after World War I through the creation of the Edwards Railway Motor Car Company. The company's greatest activity and service to the country came during World War II, when more than 1,000 people were employed here to manufacture a variety of products to aid the war effort. The Railroad House Museum contains vintage photos of the old Edwards cars and even two paintings showing Sanford-made cars used near the Great Pyramid of Cholula in Mexico and through the pine forests of Canada. â€” Information courtesy of the Railroad House Museum, Jimmy Haire and welcometosanford.com
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rantnc.com Orthner said. “A lot of them see it as a way to kind of return to just the that these towns experienced when the railroad first came through the town.” It was mentioned earlier in this piece that this is all still very theoretical, and a large number of dominoes will need to fall in the correct order for even a pilot program to become a reality. But given the attention paid and the work already put in by both state and local government, it could be closer to reality than not. That said, the early stage nature of such a project made it difficult for anyone involved to give any kind of definitive timeline for forward progress. Mann said it depends on a number of factors — most particularly the grant application the city and DOT plan to submit soon. And while he feels optimistic based on several details (Sanford has been chosen for a potential pilot program based in large part, he said, on the work that's gone into revitalizing downtown and attracting new industry), he said the fact that Virginia has sort of paved the way as boost to the city's prospects.
“We were able to join hands with Virginia on our grant application, and I think that will really help us,” he said. “But so much depends on this federal grant. If we're funded, it could be five years. If not it could be 10. But this is something we need to get ready for now. If we don't do this today because we think it's not for us, or that people won't ride a train, there will come a day where it's too late. And it would be such a cool calling card for Sanford. We've had more than one economic development prospect ask us about public transportation, and it's something we lack. This could check that box.” Mann said there's sometimes a perception of Sanford as just another small town that isn't entirely correct, and having a passenger train on the S Line stop locally could help reconfigure the way others see the city and the way the city sees itself. “We're the 27th largest city in North Carolina,” he said. “That's not the biggest, of course, but we have not just an opportunity, but an obligation to lead and try things that could be a model for other parts of the state. This is one of those things.”
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22 | March 2020 Feb 19, 2020
@therant905 To: The Citizens of Sanford, Broadway and Lee County Re: PRE PARE D COMMUNITIE S WIN
The Lee County Commissioners for supporting public investments in infrastructure, organization and marketing under the leadership of Chair Amy Dalrymple Mayor Chet Mann, the Sanford City Council and a genuine “Open for Business” agenda The public staff of Sanford, Broadway and Lee County, under the leadership of Hal Hegwer and John Crumpton for assisting with and supporting the growth agenda
Dear Citizens: Five short years ago, Central Carolina Enterprise Park was born out of a collaboration between the Sanford Area Growth Alliance and Duke Energy’s Site Readiness Program. Through that process, we learned a valuable lesson: communities must invest in themselves, and they must have readily-available product for companies to use IF those communities want to win jobs. These messages were delivered to our community in two presentations on July 30, 2015 and April 5, 2016 by Mark Sweeney of the Site Selecting Consulting firm, McCallumSweeney. That product included “shovel-ready” land and shell buildings. Why? The demands of a 21st Century Global Economy require businesses to move quickly. Today, site selectors pick communities where they can build in a year or less or complete a shell building in under five months. Fortunately, in Lee County, a group of public and private leaders took this message to heart. The culmination of this collective vision and execution has resulted in economic wins for Lee County, including Pfizer’s expansion, Bharat Forge, Audentes and many others. Lee County has been recognized at the state, regional, national and international levels as having one of the most thriving economic development eco-systems of any community our size. These remarkable accomplishments required vision, systematic execution and diligent commitment over a decade of work. For details, refer to the “Prelude to Progress” report to Lee County at http://growsanfordnc.com/chamber/preludetoprogress. Here are some of the key events and people who helped transform Lee County from an also-ran into a juggernaut, when it comes to economic development:
Michael Smith and Joy Thrash for standing up and shaping such a terrific and high functioning economic development and chamber juggernaut The LCSS, CCCC and County leadership for creating a workforce development machine with CC Works and K–14 education for its citizens Leadership in the General Assembly from Sen. Jim Burgin and Rep. John Sauls, ably assisted by Rep. Robert Reives II Lee County Commissioners Charlie Parks and Jim Womack who, in tandem with Mayors Chet Mann and Donald Andrews formed a task force in 2013 to re-imagine our economic development function, which became the public/private partnership known as the Sanford Area Growth Alliance The collective patience of all stakeholders to realize the synergies of combining the EDC and Chamber into SAGA, which hasn’t been done in many places, was a key to future success Joni Martin, who spearheaded the Depot Park effort, DSI and the restoration of many historic buildings in Downtown Sanford that now have active tenants in them—making our downtown area vibrant with activity Bob Joyce, who steered the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce through lean times during and after the recession
The Rant Monthly | 23
Donnie Oldham for his personal stewardship of the Lee County EDC and the transition to SAGA as its first Chair Bob Heuts, when Lee County EDC Director, got Lee County to invest in the road now known as Enterprise Drive in the early 2000’s, connecting Womack Drive and Colon Road Charles Hayes, who as the head of RTRP, advised us as to what other regional economic development groups were spending and how many people were working there Private capital investment that supports SAGA, CCEP and the shell buildings; having a larger organization in terms of employees and shovel-ready product matters in the global competition for jobs
The local, state and federal support and leadership that made Raleigh Executive Jetport a 21st Century aviation asset, with particular thanks to the vision and leadership of Buddy and Carter Keller Lee County citizens who supported the ¼ cent sales tax and bonds for modern schools, college buildings, parks and downtown improvements, facilities noted by visiting companies The founding of the Lee County Education Foundation in 2003 and the Second Century Project in 2008, which have been catalysts for many of the public, private and public/private partnership efforts in our community
Corporate citizens such as Caterpillar’s Brad Crace for innovative workforce collaborations, like the Caterpillar Apprentice Program, and for start-up funding for SAGA
All of these efforts, individual and group, and many more that are too numerous to name, have led to the creation of the dynamic economic development eco-system we enjoy today. It is essential that continued investment and support be maintained as we can just as easily fall behind and lose momentum in the job creation and tax base expansion that has allowed our citizens to have world-class education and recreation facilities (existing and planned) as well as lower taxes and the quality of life that comes with great jobs and community.
Keep pushing. Let’s keep our foot on the gas pedal by continuing to do what’s made us successful as a community and building on the investments already made. Agribusiness. Let’s work to create value-added agribusinesses from crops grown in Lee County, including those from our local hemp pioneers. Grow SAGA’s Program of Work by adding efforts for small business and innovation. This requires a different eco-system and will mean more human resources at SAGA to coordinate. Regional synergy. Think, work and create regionally by working with Chatham and Harnett counties by leveraging synergies through Central Carolina Community College.
SO, WHAT ’ S NE X T ?
If you’re a part of this success story, thank you for your support. Keep it going — let’s get cracking on new opportunities and challenges that will keep Sanford, Broadway and Lee County at the top of the list for companies seeking an outstanding community in which to locate their businesses.
Kirk J. Bradley | Chairman, President and CEO Lee-Moore Capital Company
24 | March 2020
City seeks control of Wilrik in suit What happened: The city of Sanford has filed a lawsuit in order to effectively regain control of downtown Sanford’s historic Wilrik Hotel.
LOCAL MATTERS Rash of incidents involving guns at schools continues For the second time in as many months, a student at Southern Lee High School was charged in connection with a February incident which involved a gun. 18-year-old Pierce Kole Love, 18, was charged on Feb. 12 with possessing a firearm on school grounds, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office. Authorities found the gun in Love’s car “after receiving an anonymous tip.” Love was also apparently found in possession of a pocket knife, and also faces a misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana. It was the second time in as many months that the school has dealt with a situation involving a gun. A 17-year-old student was charged in January with communicating a mass threat after allegedly posting a photo of two handguns and the phrase “don’t come to school tomorrow” on Snapchat. Meanwhile, a Central Carolina Community College student was escorted off the campus on Feb. 14 after apparently bringing a gun to a placement test. An email from CCCC Vice President Ken Hoyle explained that the applicant was “openly” possessing the gun on the campus in violation of state law and was escorted off the school grounds by local law enforcement.
Woman arrested for carrying nearly an ounce of crystal meth Drug agents with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a woman in early February after finding her possession of just less than an ounce of crystal methamphetamine as well as suboxone. Crissdee Ward Ashley, 49, was arrested during a surveillance “in the southern part of the county” after agents received numerous complaints about a truck with false tags. After stopping the truck and identifying Ashley as the driver, agents said they obtained probable cause to search the truck by a “K9 sniff search” and located 26.84 grams of crystal methamphetamine.
Why it’s happening: The hotel was the chess piece in an alleged $100,000 embezzlement scheme by a leader of the Sanford Affordable Housing Authority in 2016. Former SAHDC board member Robert Woods is currently being prosecuted by the state Conference of District Attorneys. The Wilrik currently operates as low-income housing. What could happen: Should the city succeed, it’s asking the court to reinstate its deed of trust on the property, and make the SAHDC pay at least $25,000 and reconstitute its board in a way that gives the city oversight authority. It’s unclear what would happen with the property if the city is able to regain control. ________________________________
By Gordon Anderson A lawsuit by the City of Sanford against the nonprofit agency that owns downtown’s historic Wilrik Hotel is seeking to bring control of the scandal-plagued building back under the purview of local government. The building, which currently serves as low-income housing, has been the subject of controversy since at least 2016, when the nonprofit Sanford Affordable Housing Development Corporation gained full control after the dissolution of a management agreement with the federally-funded Sanford Housing Authority. The lawsuit alleges that the SAHDC under the leadership of Robert Woods and Ben Gardner “seized” the Wilrik and “effectively converted (it) to private use” around February of 2016, that “the first act” by the two men was to convey “$50,000 to a banking account of one of Woods’ private business interests,” and that “Woods used at least a portion of this payment … to furnish a penthouse apartment in Baltimore, Maryland.” Woods was charged in January with embezzling $100,000 from the SAHDC. The charges — which are being prosecuted by the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys — remain pending as of this writing. It’s unknown whether Gardner has faced or will
Built in 1925, the Wilrik Hotel in downtown Sanford has operated as low-income housing for several years. Photo by Jennifer St. Clair
face any charges. The complaint, filed in October 2019, details the building’s history beginning with its construction in 1925, its eventual fall into disrepair, its acquisition by Lee County government in 1985, and its purchase by Carolina Power and Light through a company called Wilrik Apartments LLC in the mid 1990s. It was at that time that the Wilrik was first proposed for low-income housing. According to the complaint, Wilrik Apartments LLC was in 1998 loaned $500,000 interest-free by Sanford and Lee County governments ($250,000 from each entity) on a 30 year repayment plan, purportedly to
help cover the cost of extensive renovations. Fast forward to 2011, and Wilrik Apartments LLC “was unable to service the debts on the property,” the complaint reads. It was around this time that the proposal for the Sanford Housing Authority to acquire the building was first made — back then, the SAHDC was known to be a private creation of the SHA, controlled by its members and used “as an organizational vehicle to hold property for affordable housing.” The transition of the Wilrik into the SAHDC’s hands became complete in 2013 through a memorandum of understanding which included the cancellation of the city
The Rant Monthly | 25
Options for Wilrik moving forward Although news that Sanford city government is seeking to regain some measure of control over downtown’s historic Wilrik Hotel building, it is likely to remain designated as low income housing for several more years at least. Although plans were announced in 2013 to turn the Wilrik’s low income living space into upscale condominiums and/or retail space by 2018, those plans never came to fruition, and it was revealed in 2016 that federal tax credits associated with the property mean that barring their removal, the building will remain as low income housing until at least 2027. A spokesperson for the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency, told The Rant in 2016 that low income housing tax credits were awarded upon the sale of the Wilrik to CP&L in 1997. Although those tax credits reached their 15 year expiration in 2012, due to what’s called an “extended use period,” deed restrictions will remain in effect until at least 2027.
and county’s deeds of trust on the building (“which had been mostly unpaid,” according to the complaint), although the SHA retained control of the building through a management agreement into 2016. The complaint goes on to describe how, during a series of meetings in January and February of 2016, Woods and Gardner engaged in the “systemic elimination” of any SAHDC board members who were still associated with the SHA and therefore “publicly accountable,” since the SHA’s board members are locally appointed by the Sanford City Council. The result, claims the complaint, was that Woods and Gardner alone remained in charge of a nonprofit board of directors which appoints its own members. Woods apparently left the organization sometime in 2017. “The City would not have canceled its Deed of Trust on the Wilrik in 2013 if it understood (the SAHDC) to be a privately-controlled entity and not an entity controlled specifically by a public entity … over which the City exercised its own appointment authority,” the complaint reads, going on to claim the January and February 2016 meetings at which members with public accountability were removed amount to “an unfair and deceptive
Those deed restrictions include that residents must come from “households at 60% or less of area median income.” The median income for a family in Sanford is about $42,000. Minutes of a Sanford City Council meeting on March 9, 2011 show city leaders at the time had a discussion about low income housing tax credits. “We determined that one of the major obstacles to returning for development as a market value property were the low income tax credits attached to the project,” the minutes read. “A few years ago, we met with executive and legal representatives of NCHFA to better understand this aspect of the project. The original tax credits were applied for a period of fifteen years. Assuming that the clock started ticking in 1997 when the property was purchased, then those credits remain in effect until the end of 2012. However, there was a provision for an extension of these credits for low income housing.”
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The complaint requests the SAHDC pay the city “an amount exceeding $25,000” plus any interest, that the court rescind the city’s cancellation of its deed of trust, that the SAHDC be reformed “as to restore the Sanford Housing Authority’s control” over the building, and that the SAHDC pay the city’s legal costs in the matter. And while the complaint was first served in the fall, sources tell The Rant that the SAHDC has made no effort to respond to the suit, and documents on file at the Lee County Clerk of Court show that a motion by attorneys for the city for default judgment was granted in December. That process continued on Monday in Lee County civil Superior Court, when a judge heard a request to enter that default judgement officially. That ruling, however, had not been made as of Feb. 25. A call to Sanford City Attorney Susan Patterson was not returned. The Rant will update this story as more details are made public.
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trade practice” that has “alienated” “the City’s legal interest in oversight and de facto control” of the Wilrik.
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26 | March 2020
LOCAL MATTERS Outreach Mission Inc. to hold breakfast fundraiser to raise money to fight homelessness Outreach Mission Inc. will hold its first Business Breakfast Fundraiser from 7:30 to 9 a.m. on March 31, at the Dennis Wicker Civic Center. Money raised will benefit the nonprofit organization, which owns and operates two homeless shelters in Sanford and Lee County. Attendees will view a slide show of the 'growing pains' from the last two years, hear testimonies and success stories, enjoy a catered breakfast by Mrs. Wenger's Restaurant, learn of the mission's five-year plan, have access to brochures to share around Sanford and have time for questions. Each of Outreach Mission Inc.'s 31 captains has committed to invite seven others to join them at one of the 29 tables. Board members will be present to meet and talk to. State Rep. John Sauls will be the main speaker. Outreach Mission Inc. has run two homeless shelters in Sanford and Lee County for over 30 years on a high barrier, part time basis. After two years of being low barrier and open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year, OMI is now able to house and shelter 36 clients per night in two houses. The cost per person is $15 per night for shelter, safety and a bed, three meals a day, laundry and any needed social services.
HISTORIC HOME TO GO House on Hillcrest set for demolition 10 years after it was gutted by a fire
of the home that sits along the sidewalk on Hillcrest Drive will be considered for either repair or demolition — a costly project either way. The wall has also been deemed a potential hazard because of falling rocks.
By Billy Liggett A once-beautiful two-story white brick home overlooking the Rosemount-McIver Historic District on Hillcrest Drive is set for demolition 10 years after it was gutted by a fire.
Annual costs to run the shelter is approximately $197,000. Funding typically comes via local churches, individuals and various grants. The fundraiser in March looks to ease the burden.
Sanford’s Historic Preservation Commission voted to approve a Certificate of Appropriateness from the city on Jan. 27, granting permission for the city to move ahead in demolishing the historic home that has sat dormant for a decade. The home, located at 223 Hillcrest Drive, was built in 1940 and was known as the Joseph and Lee M. Lazarus House.
To learn more about Outreach Mission Inc. and its Business Breakfast Fundraiser on March 31, call the Office at (919) 7768474 or visit sanfordoutreachmission.com. Email email@example.com to contact a representative.
The house was owned by Kristina Wagner, who left the structure vacant for years after the fire in 2009, until her death in 2016. According to Barbara McMillen, Sanford’s code enforcement supervisor, the home was deemed “unfit for human habitation” in a
Findings of Fact and Order published by the city last November. The structure was also considered a fire and safety hazard and was considered a “blight” to the historic district. There had also been reports of squatters residing in the home and vandalism. The COA’s work proposal will have the home torn down and all debris removed (there may also be removal of trees). Additionally, the retaining wall (pictured) in front
Wagner’s death and confusion over ownership of the property thereafter — in addition to the fact that the home sits in the historic district (which means hoops to jump through for any kind of revitalization or demolition project) — have contributed to the lengthy delay in a final decision on the home. While the vote in January makes demolition all but certain, no dates have been announced by the city on when the razing of the home will begin.
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Hot tips and a hotline for voting on March 3
By Bob Hall All the chatter about hacking voting machines and fake ads can be overwhelming, but don’t become confused or discouraged. Here are some tips so you can use your precious right to vote. First, there’s a free hotline number to call if you have any question about where, when, or how to vote or if you experience any problem when you’re at the polls. The number is 888-OUR-VOTE or 888-687-8683. Second, you can preview your actual ballot by following the steps at demnc.co/lookup. You can take a list on paper or your cell phone into the polls to help remember your choices. But don’t talk on your phone, and no selfies! Photos are not allowed inside the polls.
Third, you can use any early voting location in your county to vote until February 29, but on March 3 be sure to go to your own precinct’s polling place. Find the hours and locations for early voting at ncvoter. org/early. Find your March 3 voting place at demnc.co/lookup. Fourth, you can register as a new voter in your county during early voting (not on Election Day). It’s smart to use early voting because you can resolve any registration issue at that time and avoid the chance of bad weather on Election Day.
with a school document showing your address. It’s always good to carry an ID with you. Sixth, if you have an outstanding traffic ticket, civil fine or misdemeanor conviction, you can still vote. A citizen convicted of a felony in any state may register and vote in North Carolina after serving his or her sentence, including probation or parole. Seventh, a near family member may help you vote at the polls. Voters with a disability or reading hardship may get help from anyone except their employer or union agent. Finally, if your name doesn’t appear on the registration rolls or you have any prob-
lem when you vote, you should be offered a provisional ballot — ask for it and for a way to learn later if the ballot was counted. It’s against the law to intimidate voters or intentionally distribute false information about the voting process. Remember, if you have any questions or problems at the polls, or see suspicious activity, call the nonpartisan voter hotline at 888-OUR-VOTE. o Bob Hall is the former executive director of the Democracy North Carolina, a nonpartisan center that promotes voter participation and fair elections.
Fifth, you don’t need a photo ID to vote. But if you register during early voting or if your registration was not fully verified, you’ll be asked to show an identifying document, such as a utility bill, government document with your name and address, or a student ID
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28 | March 2020
Valenti's still planning Sanford locale By Jonathan Owens
anford is blessed with some really great Italian restaurants. Cafe Vesuvio is my personal fave, but you can’t go wrong with Elizabeth’s or La Dolce Vita or La Montesina. Despite some setbacks, plans are still in the works to add to that list. Adam Valenti, the owner of Valenti’s in Vass, still plans to build a new location in Sanford behind the Piggly Wiggly on Main Street. The Rant reported last Spring that the Sanford City Council voted to rezone a plot of land at the location for the restaurant. At that time the owner stated that he hoped to start construction in July. Rant readers have yet to see any activity on the site, though, and asked that we
Renovations under way for downtown's Harris building Harris and Company Insurance has moved to a temporary location around the corner from its downtown office while the historic building undergoes a renovation that will allow the company to expand into the second floor. The company announced the move in a Facebook post in February. Company co-owner and Vice President Will Harris told The Rant that he expects for the company, which has grown from 3 to 9 employees in the past few years, to operate from 106 Carthage Street until sometime this summer, when the office at 110 S. Moore St. will reopen with a newly renovated second floor. Founded in the 1930s, Harris and Company moved into the historic building in the early to mid 90s, and co-owner Buck Harris purchased it several years later. The building is estimated to have been built in 1909. Harris said the move is not just a reinvestment in the company, but also in downtown Sanford and explained that while there are no current plans for the building’s third floor, that remains a possibility in the future.
look into it. So we did. Valenti said he still plans to build the restaurant, but has had some setbacks. He’s still waiting on a few permits, but hopes to start construction this spring, he said. My family loves Valenti’s. My wife works in Pinehurst, and often stops there on her way home to pick up dinner. Their buffalo chicken pizza is hard to beat. Their wings are great and meaty. Even their salads are delicious — especially loaded up with their creamy Italian dressing.
Smoothie King opening this month Another popular question from readers concerns the new Smoothie King opening on Horner Boulevard near Biscuitville. Franchise owner Kevin Butler tells us the store will open in the first two weeks of March. He and his staff are currently
“tweaking the store” and making preparations for a final inspection and training from the Smoothie King corporate office. He expects to employ around 12-15 people, and as of late February was still hiring. I’ve never been to a Smoothie King. I used to hit up Jamba Juice a lot in college, though. I assume it’s similar. Butler said the store has everything from health-based shakes to fit your diet to sweetened shakes, and even a keto shake with 45 grams of protein. Search “Smoothie King Sanford” on Facebook to find the local store’s page and stay up to date on when it will open. o Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts on these or any other business topic.
Hallmark relocation one step closer to reality The Rant reported back in December that the Kathryn’s Hallmark in Riverbirch Corner would leave for the nearby Spring Lane Galleria and that the new location would be open “sometime in January,” and while that hasn’t quite come to pass as of late February, there is some movement in that direction to share. In addition to “coming soon” signage on the storefront at 866 Spring Lane, The Rant has learned that a permit was issued on Jan. 29 for renovations to that address. When the move was first announced back in November, a representative of the store said in response to a Facebook user comment that “the plaza owner does no upkeep, so we eat that cost too.” Riverbirch Corner, built in 1985, has been the subject of complaints for some time now. It was sold in late 2017 and earlier this year faced civil penalties from the city over a failure to perform upkeep on various items like potholes and street lights. The shopping center’s JCPenney shut down in July.
Work continues on the upcoming new location for Kathryn's Hallmark in Sanford. The longtime business is moving from its location in the Riverbirch Corner shopping center to 866 Spring Lane, near Lowes Foods and PetSmart.
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Permit issued for Kendale renovations A permit has been issued for extensive renovations to part of one of the buildings in the decaying Kendale Plaza shopping center, The Rant has learned. The permit on file with the Sanford Lee County Planning Department was issued on Jan. 29 and calls for renovations to the “center bays” of the shopping center’s northernmost portion, which will include the removal of inner walls and plumbing, roof replacement and mold and asbestos abatement. The uppermost two thirds of the aging shopping center were purchased in 2019 by a Moore County-based developer which has yet to publicly disclose any plans for the property. It’s unclear when — and even if — work will begin on the property, but the permit is valid until July of this year. Par 5 Development is described on its website as a “preferred developer” for Dollar
General and PetSuites of America. The company’s website hosts photos of some of its current holdings, which at the very least appear to be more modern and of a higher quality than what currently exists at Kendale. Further, language on the site offers some hope that the company is willing to work with Sanford city government to see the location improve. Kendale Plaza – the occupied parts anyway – remains open for business but has fallen into disrepair and been the subject of a large number of complaints throughout Sanford and Lee County. Once identified as the longest continuous shopping center in the state, it was a hub for business in Lee County from its construction in the 1960s until the 1980s before losing steam amid the construction of Riverbirch Corner, the opening of a Walmart on South Horner Boulevard and, recently, the revitalization of downtown Sanford.
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30 | March 2020
ENTERTAINMENT Want to include your upcoming events in our monthly entertainment calendar? Email email@example.com and let us know the event, the date, the time, the location and any other pertinent information you want to include. Get even more noticed by including a high-resolution photo. _____________________________
Temple Theatre artistic director Peggy Taphorn (top left) and stage manager Michelle Wood (top row, third from left) with the cast of Steel Magnolias: Traci Yeo, Lynda Clark, Melanie Simmons, Caryn Crye, Lilly Nelson and Elizabeth Michaels.
March 6 | Smoke & Barrel | 8:30 - 11 p.m. | Free A veteran performer with Nashville experience, Gary Braddy has had songs published by Clint Black’s publishing company. He’s also performed as part of The B Sides, who’ve played across the country and been nominated for multiple Ameripolitan Awards. FIRST FRIDAY WITH 10 O’CLOCK HIGH
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GOOD LAUGH, GOOD CRY Temple's 'Steel Magnolias' a show for all generations es a lot of issues,” Taphorn said. “The way these women rely on their friendships and their community to get them through difficult times — we don’t all have to agree with each other, but we do all have to come together at some point. This play does that beautifully.”
By Billy Liggett
t’s a story that resonates with all generations, with all genders and with people who want both a good laugh and a good cry from their theater-going experience. It’s Steel Magnolias, written for the stage in 1987 by Robert Harling and later adapted into the 1989 hit film starring Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton and Shirley MacLaine. The story about the bond among a group of Louisiana women comes to the Temple Theatre stage in Sanford March 12-29. Temple Artistic Director Peggy Taphorn (who’s also directing the play) said the theater’s pentultimate production of the 2019-2020 season is not just a well-written stage classic, but it also has a timely message.
“We could all use some healing, whether it’s emotional or as a community or nation — Steel Magnolias address-
Two big differences between the stage version and the film — the stage cast is all women (the husbands, boyfriends and sons are only mentioned), and everything takes place in the beauty shop. The play opens with talk of Shelby’s wedding day and weaves in and out of stories about her ongoing illness, Clairee’s friendship with the curmudgeon Ouiser, Annelle’s transformation from a shy newcomer to a party girl and eventually to a repentant Christian and Truvy’s relationships with the men in her family. “Every woman in this show goes
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rantnc.com through a major journey in the two hours of the play,” Taphorn added. “No one ends up where they started. And my favorite way to tell emotional stories like this is through humor, and that’s what this play does so well. It also deals with loss, and really, just does a fantastic job of telling the human experience.” And the characters each represent different generations — Shelby (played by Traci Yeo) and Annelle (Lilly Nelson) are in their 20s, Truvy (Caryn Crye) and M’Lynn (Melanie Simmons) are middle-aged, and Ousier (Lynda Clark) and Clairee (Elizabeth Michaels) represent the seniors. Aside from Clark, the cast are either relatively or entirely new to the Temple Theatre stage. A day removed from the cast's first rehearsal, Taphorn said they have a winning ensemble. “Ninety percent of the challenge as a director is casting,” she said. “Our cast comes to us from Wilmington, Charlotte and from our region, and I'm really excited to bring these women together, because I think they're phenomenal. They're all strong actors, and if our first table read is any indication, we're in for a treat." When Steel Magnolias ends its threeweek run in Sanford, it will head south to Southern Pines’ Sunrise Stage for two shows on April 4 and a third show on April 5. The weekend is the start of a collaboration between the established Temple Theatre and the historic Sunrise, which is bringing back live community theater to downtown Southern Pines (the “art house” is currently known for firstrun and independent films, concerts, live broadcasts of the Met Opera, the Bolshoi Ballet in cinema and other arts and entertainment events. The Temple’s Steel Magnolias cast and crew will all head south for the threeshow run. “They don’t yet have the production values, the lighting and sound packages for a show like this, so we’re looking to give them a leg up,” Taphorn said. “I’m happy to see more theaters establishing themselves, and I’m happy to get more people into the habit of seeing live theater. And it helps the Temple in the long run, because if people see a Temple production in Southern Pines or in Asheboro, and they like what they see,
Jubilee season reveal March 17 Steel Magnolias and Mama Mia will close out the 2019-2020 season, but on March 17, Temple Theatre will reveal its 2020-2021 lineup with a big JUBILEE season reveal event benefiting the theater’s education department. According to Artistic Director Peggy Taphorn, the North Carolina Arts Council has asked all leading regional theaters to do a season of inclusion and diversity — highlighting underrepresented groups of people (African-American leads, strong women leads, characters with disabilities or nonbinary gender roles) in their shows. Taphorn said Temple has taken that challenge to heart with its 2020-2021 lineup. The March 17 event, which begins at 7 p.m. at the theater, will also include a reverse raffle where everybody will win something, and the grand prize 200th ticket drawn will win $2,500. In all, $4,250 in cash and prizes will be given away that night. There will be live entertainment as well. According to Taphorn, the purchase of a $50 ticket will get you and a guest access to the Temple’s season reveal (cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served), in addition to a raffle ticket. Tickets can be purchased by any member of the Temple staff or board, by calling (919) 774-4155, or by stopping by the theater at 120 Carthage Street in downtown Sanford during regular business hours.
they’ll make the trip to Sanford to see more shows.” Temple Theatre will end its season with the hit musical Mama Mia from April 23 to May 10. More information can be found and tickets can be purchased at templeshows.com.
32 | March 2020
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March 13 | Smoke & Barrel | 8:30 - 11 p.m. | Free
Bennett-based performer drawing influence from the Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Bruce Springsteen, and more doing a variety of acoustic Americana/rock covers and originals. SOUTHERN VOICE ACOUSTIC
March 21 | Camelback Brewing Co. | 7 - 10 p.m. | Free
Statesville boys serving up savory oldschool blues that lands on the grittier, rockin’, party-down side of things.
Country music, but acoustic. AUTUMN NICHOLAS
March 27 | Smoke & Barrel | 8:30 - 11 p.m. | Free
March 12 - 29 | Temple Theatre | $17 - $29 | Tickets: templeshows.com The original stage show on which the 1989 film was based, the action here is set in Chinquapin, La., and focuses on the lives of a group of hair salon regulars.
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Actress earns praise in first leading film role Campbell graduate, High Point native has also appeared in 'Ozark,' 'Stranger Things,' 'TWD' By Billy Liggett She has that “wife of a preacher” look, but there’s a mystery about Bethany Anne Lind that keeps landing her darker roles in some of television’s biggest hits. From brief appearances on “The Walking Dead” and “Stranger Things” to recurring roles in other hits like Netflix’s “Ozark,” Hulu’s “Reprisal,” and AMC’s “TURN: Washington’s Spies,” Lind has killed and been killed often in her young acting career. And that experience was put to good use in the 2004 Campbell University graduate’s first leading role in an independent film, “Blood on Her Name,” which is currently enjoying
Bethany Anne Lind in the independent film, "Blood on Her Name."
a 97-percent “fresh” rating with 33 reviews on the film critic site Rotten Tomatoes. The film begins with the main character Leigh (a mechanic played by Lind) holding a bloody wrench and standing over the dead body of a man in her auto shop — and (no spoilers) it all goes terrifically downhill from there. Lind, a native of High Point, said she was excited for the chance to lead in the film directed by newcomer Matthew Pope. “A lot of us out here are regular working
time in Buies Creek, and went on to appear in regional theater productions in Fayetteville and Raleigh before heading south to Atlanta. Her first film break came in 2011’s “Mean Girls 2,” and she appeared in several shows (including the aformentioned mega-hits “Stranger Things” and “The Walking Dead”) and independent films before landing the role of the pregnant preacher’s wife in the Jason Bateman hit “Ozark.” More recently, she appeared as Violet’s mother in “Doctor Sleep,” the sequel to the Stephen King classic “The Shining.”
actors,” said Lind, who lives in Atlanta with husband and fellow actor and Campbell graduate Eric Mendenhall. “And it’s great to be one. But I think a lot of people think actors are always waiting to be ‘discovered,’ and once that happens, your life is smooth sailing. That’s not how it goes for most of us. It’s a role here and a role there, and hopefully that leads to something more exciting and more challenging.”
But it’s her performance in “Blood on Her Name” that is putting Lind front and center in movie reviews. Variety wrote she played the lead role “with exceptionally compelling and emotionally precise skill,” while the New York Times wrote she delivered an “impressive, high-anxiety performance” and the Los Angeles Times called her performance “excellent” and “terrific throughout.”
Lind got her start on the Campbell University stage, acting all four years during her
“Blood on Her Name” is currently available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video.
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34 | March 2020
LOCAL MATTERS Commissioner candidate angered by 'Mexican burlesque' halftime show Randy Todd, a GOP candidate for one of three seats on the Lee County Board of Commissioners, took to Facebook during February’s Super Bowl to complain about what he called the “Mexican burlesque” halftime show, writing that it should be done “in English next time” or else held in Mexico. “I just watch (sic) the Super Bowl halftime and I thought I was watching a Mexican burlesque show maybe or do it in English next time or have the Dam (sic) bowl game in Mexico,” he wrote around 8:30 p.m. on the night of the game. Todd, the owner of Todd’s Upholstery on Horner Boulevard in Sanford, was referring to a performance by singers Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, neither of whom is from Mexico. The post was apparently only visible to Todd’s friends, but The Rant was made aware of its existence, and Todd later confirmed that he’d written it. He acknowledged learning after his post that neither singer is from Mexico and apologized for identifying them as such. “I don’t keep up with J-Lo. It was all in Spanish, and I didn’t know the difference,” he said. “It was still burlesque. I’ve seen prostitutes on the street with more clothes on. I probably should have thought a little more about it. Maybe I should have said ‘a Spanish nation.’ But the brain goes to where we’re having the most trouble, and right now that’s Mexico.” Todd offered an apology and said he was offended that the show amounted to “pornography.” “If someone took it the wrong way, I’m sorry,” he said. “But I was very upset that I’d just watched pornography. They had a pole on the stage, for God’s sake.”
It’s been two years since Britton Buchanan’s debut on NBC’s The Voice, and the Sanford singer and songwriter has released two singles so far in 2020 — “Cross My Mind” and “Juliet’s Lullaby,” both currently available to download and stream. Keep up with Buchanan’s progress on Twitter at twitter.com/brittonbuchanan
Complete County Committee urges public participation in Census 2020 The Lee County Complete Count Committee met at the Enrichment Center in February to discuss plans to increase public participation in the upcoming 2020 Census. The Census is a population count mandated by the U.S. Constitution and conducted every ten years by the U.S. Census Bureau, a nonpartisan government agency. The 2020 Census will count the population in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories. Census data will determine representation in the United States House of Representatives and the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funding for housing, emergency services, healthcare, education, roads, and many other programs and services. Community funding is a driving motivator for the Lee County Complete Count Committee. Currently, Lee County receives an estimated $1860 per person annually in census data driven funding. This means the community lost approximately $18,600 person person over the last decade for every
person that did not get counted in the 2010 Census. According to Census Bureau staff, Lee County had a 60 percent response rate in the 2000 Census and 74 percent in the 2010 Census. The committee is aiming for a minimum 84 percent response rate in 2020. Lee County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Amy Dalrymple leads the Lee County Complete Count Committee. “Ensuring we have a complete count in Lee County is essential to the future of our community,” she said. “There is a lot of confusion over what the Census is and what will be done with the information. The job of the committee is to help educate the community so they know this is a population count, not a residency questionnaire; and that data gathered is confidential and for analysis and information only. Most importantly, the public needs to understand this is our opportunity to get our population numbers correct so that we have fair representation and
funding that will support our community for the next decade. If we get it wrong, it stays wrong for the next ten years.” Invitations for the 2020 Census will be mailed to households beginning in March. The committee is sponsoring a Lee County Census Week from March 28 to April 4, with Lee County Census Day planned for March 28 and National Census Day scheduled for April 1. The committee is working on increasing public access points for computers to allow people with limited internet access the opportunity to complete their Census online. Lee County Government has created a Lee County NC Census Week event page on the county Facebook page - facebook.com/leecountync — and the Lee County Complete Count Committee will be sharing information on through various channels to ensure everyone counts in the 2020 Census. For additional information and questions, please contact the Lee County Manager’s Office at (919) 718-4605.
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GOP chairman skipping Oil & Gas meetings in protest over per diem A February report in N.C. Policy Watch indicates that Lee County GOP Chairman Jim Womack, who is also a member of the North Carolina Oil & Gas Commission, is skipping the body’s meetings in protest over not receiving his per diem for board service. The article mostly highlights the body’s currently dysfunctional state, explaining that it was unable to reach a quorum at its February meeting which only two members attended and was therefore unable to take action on a number of issues, including the inspection of two idle gas wells in Lee County. But near the bottom of the report, it was noted that Womack was not in attendance out of protest: The report reads “Then in 2019, Lister drew the short straw and was elected by his fellow commission members to replace Womack, who is now vice-chair. (Womack has boycotted attending the the last two meetings in person because he claims he’s not been paid his per diem; it’s unclear if he’s filled out the paperwork
correctly.)” Draft minutes from November’s meeting of the body appear to back this up. “The last item is still troubling is I go back to minutes of the May meeting, which were approved at the August meeting, and it said that Mr. Peele from OSHR approved us on the ability to get paid for our travel and transportation, costs, parking fees, and the per-diem that’s allowed. He promised that that was going to be done but it still hasn’t been done,” Womack, who was teleconferencing into that meeting, is reported to have said. “The Chairman probably has been compensated – I still have not. The paperwork that was promised to me has not been provided by email or otherwise and I think DEQ has some house-keeping work to take care of and I’m just stating my intent. I’m not traveling there today because I’m not getting paid to go back-and-forth. I’m going to be by remote telephone participation until such time DEQ does its job by statutory requirement. That’s all I have to say.”
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36 | March 2020
SOUTHERN SPICE GIRLS
Group of Southern Lee High School chefs placed fourth in NC Jr. Chef Competition
ne of Lee County's best new dishes isn't one you'll be able to find in any of our many restaurants.
Instead, the Sweet Carolina Chicken Bang Bang — an outside the box take on chili — was served several times this year at Southern Lee High School by a team of students from Gwen Williams' Foods II class. The team, known as the “Southern Spice Girls,” consists of seniors Carlee Dollar and Shaughnesty Dorsett, as well as juniors Jacora Murchison and Brianna McNeill. They took their Sweet Chicken Carolina Bang Bang to the 2020 North Carolina Jr. Chef Competition at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte earlier this month.
Brianna McNeill, Carlee Dollar, Shaughnesty Dorsett and Jacora Murchison during the development phase of their recipe Sweet Carolina Chicken Bang Bang.
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Williams said the competition required the dish to meet the definition of a school lunch entree – a main course that combined meat or a meat substitute, 350 calories or less, 480
mg of sodium or less, 35 percent of calories from fat, et cetera. The cost per serving was a modest $1.04. And while the showing at competition wasn't what the team had hoped for — they had an ambitious goal of placing first in their first ever competition — the Sweet Carolina Chicken Bang Bang was a hit with the judges, gaining compliments on the composition and preparation, and scoring just one point shy of third place. “When they said 'fourth place — Southern Lee,' I was so disappointed,” said McNeill said. “I was just like 'really? We lost to a lettuce wrap?” Dollar added with a laugh. Though disappointed in anything other than a first place finish, the girls still take pride in their conception of the dish, which began back in September as “Southwest Chili” before evolving into its current form,
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The Rant Monthly | 37
rantnc.com which featured chicken, sweet potatoes, corn and beans, as well as spices like paprika and cumin and vegetables like tomatoes and green peppers. It was all topped off with hot sauce, cheese and sour cream. “The first version was a vegetarian chili,” Murchison explained. “It was nasty.” Dorsett said that initial iteration of the chili “was like baby food.” But after getting feedback from everyone ranging from other students to the school nurse, principals, cafeteria workers and others, the dish eventually felt right for competition. That process involved trying different kitchen techniques to get everything just right, and even included help from the district's child nutrition director, and chefs Gregg Hamm, Regina Hargett and De-Ven Atkinson from Central Carolina Community College's culinary program. “One time we added liquid, and it made the dish too watery,” Dorsett explained. “We tried adding rice, but it added calories and time.” Dollar said the group eventually gave the dish extra time to simmer, resulting in a thicker, more-chili like consistency. “That also made it taste better, because the
flavors had time to meld together,” she said. Each of the girls say they're not likely to pursue working in a kitchen as a career, but they also rattled off the lessons they learned that can apply to just about any field. “Working on a budget,” noted Dollar. “Working together as a team, and learning how to substitute different things if something doesn't work,” added Murchison. And Williams said the team became closer through the process, not just with one another, but also with her. “The bond I've got with them, I haven't had that kind of bond with students in a while,” she said, explaining that the group came back from the competition with a litany of inside jokes and shared experience that makes the whole thing worth it. “Their teamwork is flawless. They know how to work with each other, and they know how to work under pressure and be prepared.” And while two of the team members will graduate this spring, Murchison and McNeill say they hope to compete next year. “We can't replace y'all, but we've gotta find some new people,” McNeill said with a laugh.
38 | March 2020
Sanford not quite a sprawled-out concrete jungle ... yet By Billy Liggett
“As long as our elected officials vote with quality of life, traffic and greenspace in mind, Sanford can handle several Galvin's Ridges.”
here's a city along Interstate 10 in South Louisiana known for its Cajun food and Cajun music, its family friendly Mardi Gras celebrations, its proximity to beautiful bayous and swamps and its Southern hospitality. These are the qualities of Lafayette, Louisiana, that you see on travel guides and Chamber of Commerce brochures. What they don't tell you, however, is Lafayette (within the city limits) is a poorly planned, overbuilt, terribly designed mess of a concrete jungle where the traffic is a mess even on its best days, the businesses are squeezed into the tightest of spaces and the citizens have to travel 10 to 20 miles away to find anything resembling greenspace or natural beauty. I bring Lafayette — a city I love, by the way — because of last month's cover story on the new housing development coming
to the Deep River area in the northernmost portion of Sanford. Galvin's Ridge will be a 1,000-home planned community with close-together homes surrounded by strategic walking trails, parks and a few businesses. It seems the majority of families who currently live in the Deep River area — Deep River Road, Colon Road, etc. — are against Galvin's Ridge for a number of reasons, most of which deal with their fear that it will take away from the quality of life that only comes with living in a peaceful, rural area. And I completely understand that fear. You need to look no further than the New Hill community just 10 to 15 minutes north of them to see what sprawl can become. New Hill Road, just south of Apex, just 10 years
ago was a peaceful two-lane highway people used as a backroad to Durham or as a way to get to the American Tobacco Trail. I remember when the first of these communities was planned, several established homes in the area protested with "Stop Cary" signs in their front yards. It didn't work. New Hill Road now has several new high-end subdivisions, with more land being razed as we speak. There's tons of construction going on, slowing traffic in both directions. Tons of dirt. Tons of machines. Hardly peaceful. Again, I understand the fear. But I also think Sanford has a long, long, long way to go before we become the next Cary or Apex. Or even Fuquay-Varina.
Sanford is blessed with an abundance of green. More parks and natural areas than other cities our size (and bigger). And it's blessed with room to grow. The reality is Sanford needs to grow. The jobs are coming in. People are falling in love with the city's location, its recent revitalization efforts and its current cost of living. Yet our current housing situation isn't enough to handle the influx of people both coming in from Raleigh to the north and Fayetteville to the south. As long as our planners and elected officials vote with quality of life, traffic, greenspace and current residents in mind, Sanford can handle several Galvin's Ridges and not become a jumbled, concrete mess. o Billy Liggett is a writer, editor and taxidermist. Bring him your dead squirrels and he'll put them in fun superhero poses for a small fee. Want your ad to appear below this column every month? Email Brandon@rantnc.com.
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40 | March 2020
The March 2020 edition of The Rant Monthly, a product of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.